What is Vertebroplasty?

Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure for stabilizing compression fractures in the spine. Bone cement is injected into back bones (vertebrae) that have cracked or broken, often because of osteoporosis. The cement hardens, stabilizing the fractures and supporting your spine.

For people with severe, disabling pain caused by a compression fracture, vertebroplasty can relieve pain, increase mobility and reduce the use of pain medication.

When is Vertebroplasty needed?

Your doctor may recommend vertebroplasty if:

  • Traditional methods of treating your fractured vertebra or back pain fail
  • You suffer from severe or prolonged pain or immobility
  • The fractured vertebra has led to more serious complications, including: Deep vein thrombosis, acceleration of osteoporosis, respiratory problems, loss of height and emotional or social issues.


What should you know before undergoing Vertebroplasty?

Not everyone can safely undergo this procedure. Patients best suited for vertebroplasty are those with a painful, non-healing vertebral compression fracture, regardless of the age of the fracture (although the procedure is most successful for more recent fractures). Most patients experience these fractures due to underlying osteoporosis, but patients who suffer fractures due to tumors may also be eligible. Patients not considered for vertebroplasty include those who are having pain not related to a vertebral compression fracture, those who have an extensive fracture affecting surrounding structures, or who suffer from an infection in which case the infection would have to be adequately treated first prior to undergoing vertebroplasty.

What are the complications and side effects?

There may be some soreness for a few days at the puncture site which may be relieved with an ice pack.

Complications are rare (less than 3%) with vertebroplasty but include infection, bleeding, numbness/tingling, increased back pain, and paralysis. Other risks include cement extrusion into the vertebral canal leading to spinal cord or nerve root compression, venous embolism (a blood clot that forms within a vein), pulmonary embolism (one or more blood clots blocking an artery in the lungs), and risks of anesthesia. The risk of cement extrusion into the vertebral canal is theoretically less with kyphoplasty than with vertebroplasty due to the difference in injection pressure, although a large randomized controlled study comparing kyphoplasty to vertebroplasty has yet to be published confirming this. It is not yet known whether vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty increases the risk of another fracture in the spine or ribs, but it is known that a patient sustaining an osteoporotic fracture is already at risk for additional fractures.

It is important you understand the precautions and know the possible complication and side effects before having this Vertebroplasty. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.


How do I prepare for Vertebroplasty?

Your doctor will likely order an X-ray, take a complete medical history and do a physical exam to determine the precise location and nature of your vertebra-related pain. Your doctor might also use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan).

Tell your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications and any herbal supplements you are taking.

Tell your doctor if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, aspirin or other medications that affect blood clotting.

What happens during Vertebroplasty?

A typical vertebroplasty procedure usually takes about 1 hour to complete.

The patient is treated with local anesthesia and light sedation, usually in an x-ray suite or operating room on an outpatient basis.

A biopsy needle is guided into the fractured vertebra under X-ray guidance through a small puncture in the patient’s skin.

Specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected under pressure directly into the fractured vertebra, filling the spaces within the bone – with the goal of creating a type of internal cast (a cast within the vertebra) to stabilize the vertebral bone.

The needle is removed and the cement hardens quickly (about 10 minutes), congealing the fragments of the fractured vertebra and stabilizing the bone.

The small skin puncture is covered with a bandage.

What happens after Vertebroplasty?

Shortly after the cement has hardened, the patient is free to leave the medical facility and can go home the same day.

For the first 24 hours after vertebroplasty, bedrest is usually recommended.

If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.


What should you do after Vertebroplasty?

Most people are able to walk after the procedure. You may need to stay in bed for 24 hours afterward. Then you can slowly resume normal activity. You may need to continue wearing a back brace, but it’s usually unnecessary.

You will come back for a follow-up appointment in a few weeks.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: September 26, 2018 | Last Modified: September 26, 2018

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